One of my biggest tips would be to restrict your gear choice, because there’s so much out there; restriction is good! If I really look at the essential stuff that we use, it’s all about ES1, ES2 and EXS24, and that’s it!
Trance used to be very much about the sound of Roland’s JP8080 — the very clean Super Saw, a little detune, a little delay, that was it. Right now it’s all about distortion and the harmonics you create when you distort something. We use Logic’s Guitar Amp a lot for that, even on bass lines.
I get sent lots of promos, and now all these kids are using multi-band compression to get their music to sound like my radio show. But that goes through a broadcast compressor, and if you heard it that way in a club you’d walk out of the club a half hour later screaming because there’s no dynamics in there. It’s really important to have some dynamics left.
So we don’t really use compression in that way. If we use a compressor we use it for sound design rather than for the overall mix. ... We do a lot of side-chaining.
If we’re making a track or a remix, we listen to the current sound a lot. You have to go on iTunes and listen to a lot of other records. That’s really, really essential. ... DJs won’t play your record if it doesn’t sound enough like the other records, because they’re building a set and they’ve got to rock the crowd. So no matter how many hours of production you put into it, if it doesn’t sound a little like the previous record or the record after it, then it’s not going to fit, and they’re not going to play it because it’ll make their set sound really weird. So doing research is extremely important.”
Article: Sound on Sound - Armin Van Buuren